Friday, November 10, 2023

Edge Computing (or something)

 A little over a month ago (October 4/5, 2023 if you're reading this in the far future), I was invited to be a delegate at Gestalt IT's second Edge Field Day (#EFD2).  I'd participated in a couple of earlier Field Days, so I knew the format:   Vendors would present information to a group of technical folks and discussion would ensue.

At the moment, the core of my consulting work lies in helping a WISP with networking issues, and giving technical advice to the State of New Mexico's Office of Broadband Expansion and Access.  Also, I run the ABQIX, an Internet Exchange in multiple data centers in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

I don't really design/implement things that I think of as "Edge Computing," so I wasn't really sure what value I would add.  But I knew I'd learn a lot, and am old enough that I'm willing to ask questions that others might feel are obvious without getting embarrassed.  Also, I figured I'd be able to add comic relief if nothing else to the fray.

On site, we had a roundtable discussion with all of the delegates to talk about Edge Computing.  In the end, we talked about a number of issues important to IT workloads, security, and many other points.  But I was still fuzzy on Edge Computing.

Next up was a presentation from Solidigm.  Their presentation showcased their SSD products.  They've got everything:  speed, reliability, physical form, rugged packaging, storage density.  At the end of their presentation, I was convinced that if I was an OEM, I'd be considering the use of their gear.  But I'm not sure I knew a lot more about Edge Computing.

We then heard from StorMagic.  They showed us their SvSAN product which was quite cool.  Running on top of hypervisors, you can scale the underlying hardware to create the performance level you need.  They also have some cool tools for managing these storage devices as you scale -- in fact, they let us see their Edge Control tool before releasing info publically.  I was starting to wonder if Edge Computing was really about storage...

Edge Field Day #2 ended with an introduction to NodeWeaver.  I know I didn't grok this product, but it spoke to me.  A slim hypervisor with a slick install system that lets you build (yet another) hyperconverged platform.  A compute and storage swiss-army knife that runs on virtually any x86 hardware, so you can mix/match to meet your performance needs -- just want you need for Edge Computing.  Right?

I went home from Edge Field Day with a heavy heart.  I seriously wondering if I'd been worth anyone's time.  We had good talks on technology with great people, but I still wasn't sure what Edge Computing was.

On October 20, David Linthicum published an article titled "Whatever Happened to Edge Computing?"  The title made me wonder if I could stop worrying about Edge Computing because I'd already missed the boat.  (Actually my take on David's thoughts indicate that Edge Computing is alive and well -- but the wealth of possible applications make it difficult to define meaningful standards.)

After the last few weeks, I've decided that I'll define Edge Computing for myself until someone can get me a better definition.  To wit:

Edge Computing is a optimization strategy that involves distributed computing.

Or something.

At least it isn't the typical consultant weasel words: "It depends."


Thanks go out to Gestalt IT, Solidigm, StorMagic, and NodeWeaver to making things rattle around my head for a couple of weeks.  I didn't realize how much this was bothering me until this article started to flow.  My conclusion is overly broad -- but so the the term I tried to define.

David Linthicum gets credit for writing an article that helped me gel my thoughts.

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